31 August 2008

RNC, Gustav, and NOLA -- oh my!

As of this writing, the Weather Channel is reporting that Hurricane Gustav is heading towards the Gulf Coast at category 3 strength, and is expected to make landfall sometime Monday.

New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin has ordered all residents to evacuate the city. Just three years ago this weekend, New Orleans was under water while George W. Bush ate cake with John McCain.

Yeah, let them eat cake. Bush and McCain. Let them party while tens of thousands of poor New Orleaneans -- the "lucky" ones who survived -- ate MREs in the sweltering Superdome as the stadium's toilets overflowed. God bless America.

This year, however, it appears that the White House is trying to at least give the appearance that they give a damn. To that end, according to the Associated Press, the White House has announced that "President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney will skip the Republican National Convention, which begins tomorrow, because of mounting concerns about Hurricane Gustav."

Mounting concerns? Where were those mounting concerns three years ago when Bush did his impersonation of Nero and fiddled (or, rather, played guitar) while New Orleans drowned?

Call me cynical, but I see this as nothing more than a PR ploy. It is too little, too late, and quite likely for the wrong reasons.

And I also cannot help but wonder if the Republicans encouraged Bush and Cheney to stay home, hoping that the less-informed sheep who watch the convention will forget that Bush, Cheney, McCain, et al, are one big oily family.

Out of sight, out of mind?

I hope not.

30 August 2008

Working the Sarah Palin puzzle

On August 29, John McCain surprised many of us when he named first-term Alaska Governor Sarah Palin as his running mate.

Most people I've spoken with had, like me, never heard of her.

And the theories on why McCain picked her were diverse.

Many people I spoke with saw it as an attempt to lure disgruntled Hillary supporters into the McCain camp.

Others saw it as an attempt to appeal to the religious conservative base and/or the gun lobby.

Some called it a Hail Mary pass.

Some speculated that the other possibilities on the short list had declined the offer.

And some saw it as a sign that McCain knows that he is the captain of a sinking ship and has stopped trying. And now he can at least spend the next few months of this campaign hanging out with a very attractive female running mate. (I wonder what Cindy thinks.)

While I disagree with that last theory, the others all seem plausible, as does a combination of any or all of the above.

But will this strategy work, whatever the reasons behind it?

That depends on how the McCain campaign will portray Palin, and how the Obama campaign will respond over time.

There are plenty of things about Gov. Palin that may appeal to right-wing voters, but there are also some drawbacks.

First let's look at the plusses.

Conservatives might support her, and vote for her, because she is staunchly anti-choice, anti-gay, pro-gun, pro-homeschooling, supports Big Oil to the detriment of the environment and the polar bears, and believes that creationism should be taught in schools alongside evolution.

She will also enable the McCain campaign to play another sympathy card. Palin has an infant with Down Syndrome, which they can use along with McCain's POW experience to win some sympathy votes that have nothing to do with the real issues that affect us.

There may be some women who will vote for her just because she is a woman.

And there may be some men who will vote for her just because she is a very attractive woman. (Like Cindy McCain, Gov. Palin is a former beauty queen.)

Never overestimate the intelligence and common sense of the average American voter.

On the other hand, there are some downsides for the McCain campaign:

She has been Alaska's governor for less than two years. The population of the entire state of Alaska is roughly equal to that of Memphis. Before winning the governorship, she was mayor of Wasilla, Alaska, a small town with a population somewhere between 6,700 and 8,500. She began her political career in the PTA.

In other words, she is inexperienced. The McCain campaign will no longer be able to play the experience card against Obama. (But it will be fun to watch the highly experienced Joe Biden "educate" her on foreign and domestic policy issues during the vice-presidential debate.)

Her education amounts to a Bachelor's degree in journalism from the University of Idaho.

A lot of conservatives still believe that a woman's place is in the home, not in the White House or on the campaign trail, especially when she should be looking after her special-needs infant.

And I cannot believe that there is a significant number of disgruntled Hillary supporters who would vote for an anti-choice, anti-gay, anti-science, anti-environment candidate just because she is a woman. After all, Palin's views are pretty much the opposite of Hillary's views on most of the issues. On the other hand, the National Organization for Women has described Palin's Democratic counterpart Joe Biden as "the VP candidate who appeals to women, with his authorship and championing of landmark domestic violence legislation, support for pay equity, and advocacy for women around the world."

But stranger things have happened. Like the 2004 reelection of George W. Bush.

Whatever the outcome, one thing is for sure: This race for the White House just keeps getting more and more interesting every day.

29 August 2008

Can the dream become a reality?

Last night, Senator Barack Obama formally accepted the Democratic nomination for President of the United States of America.

So many peple wanted to share in this historic occasion that they managed to squeeze some 84,000 into Mile High Stadium. (As a side note, the McCain campaign is having trouble filling a 10,000-seat theater in Dayton for his VP announcement, so they're giving away tickets and bussing people in from all over. But, of course, the mainstream media will not pay so much attention to that little tidbit.)

Obama delivered his historic speech last night on the 45th anniversary of Martin Luther King's "I Have a Dream" speech. The timing could not have been more perfect.

The dream is slowly becoming a reality, or so this might suggest.

I just hope that on election day Obama will not be judged by the color of his skin but by the content of his character.

But, unfortunately, for now that's a big question mark.

28 August 2008

How Hillary rocked the roll-call vote

Wow. It may have been the most dramatic moment of this year's Democratic National Convention so far.

Last evening, during the state-by-state roll call vote for this year's Democratic presidental nomination, done in alphabetical order by state name, they eventually got to New York. And, when they got there, Senator Hillary Clinton claimed the microphone and spoke on behalf of the New York delegation. She asked that Senator Barack Obama be confirmed by acclamation. In other words, the roll call voting would cease, and a verbal affirmation would confirm Obama's candidacy. Impressive.

It worked, and the thunderous cries of "Yea" made history as Obama became the first African-American (actually, biracial) candidate to be nominated by one of the two major parties for the highest office in the land.

Just an hour or two previously, Hillary had released her delegates, which would allow them to vote for Obama. Many did, even as a minority held on to their votes for Hillary in a symbolic measure.

It took great strength and a lot of class for Hillary to do what she did last evening.

And, along with Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton herself has made history.

27 August 2008

Former warden speaks out against death penalty

I keep trying to provide new reasons why the death penalty is not a good idea.

I have illustrated the fact that innocent people are sometimes sent to death row by mistake.

I have pointed out how we human rights activists, who believe that human rights apply to everyone -- even criminals -- see the the death penalty as the ultimate cruel and unusual punishment, and the ultimate, irreversable denial of human rights.

I have pointed out how most western industrialized nations have evolved beyond the need to kill rather than imprison-for-life their worst offenders.

And I have shown how the currently preferred -- but medically faulty -- method of execution, lethal injection, may violate the Sixth Amendment provisions against cruel and unusual punishment.

But I don't want you to rely on just my own research and opinions on this issue. After all, I am just some left-leaning writer.

And so I would like to recommend this video of Ron McAndrew, a Florida prison warden who so generously and bravely shares his own experiences with the death penalty, and how he went from a pro-DP position to full opposition.

26 August 2008

Michelle Obama sets the record straight

The Republicans like to call Barack Obama "elite" and out of touch with regular Americans. How a biracial man raised by a white single mother and working class grandparents, and who bypassed high-paying Wall Street jobs to work for peanuts as a community organizer in Chicago's South Side can be called "elite" is beyond me. But the Republicans seem to work from their own lexicon.

But last evening at the Democratic National Convention, Michelle Obama set the record straight. Introduced to the crowd by her brother, she gave a stirring 20 minute speech in which she talked from the heart about her ordinary roots and how she and Barack were both were raised to believe in the value of hard work and family.

It was a refreshing change of pace from the Republican idea of "values", like John McCain, who can't remember how many houses he owns.

All Americans should hear Michelle's speech before heading to the polls this November. It's the perfect antidote to the Republican smear machine.

25 August 2008

Lilly Ledbetter to speak at DNC on Women's Equality Day (Tuesday)

Tomorrow, August 26, is Women's Equality Day.

And it is extremely appropriate that tomorrow evening, at approximately 9:00 p.m. Eastern time, Lilly Ledbetter will speak at the Democratic National Convention about her fight for fair pay for women and the importance of passing the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act.

For those of you who may not know Lilly's name, she had worked at Goodyear for 19 years when she discovered she was being paid significantly less than every one of her male counterparts. So she sued. A jury agreed that she had been paid unfairly, and awarded her $223,776 in back pay, and over $3 million in punitive damages.

But then a judge cut that to only $300,000 because of a 1991 law that says that you must take action within 180 days of when the pay discrimination started, or else you're out of luck. If you don't find out about it until it's been going on for several years, as was the case with Lilly Ledbetter, too bad.

The Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act (H.R. 2831) would change that. It would give an employee 180 days to sue after each discriminatory paycheck is issued, not just the very first one. The bill passed in the House last year, but is now in limbo in the Senate.

Hopefully Lilly's convention address will inspire some movement on this issue.

24 August 2008

The visionary and the statesman

It was breathtaking.

Yesterday Senators Barack Obama and Joe Biden, along with their beautiful wives, stood on the steps of the Old State Capitol in Springfield, Illinois, and consummated this year's Democratic presidential ticket.

This was the same building where Obama had officially kicked off his presidential campaign last year. And this was the same building where President Abraham Lincoln had launched his campaign to end slavery. It was perfect.

And it seemed like a match made in heaven: The visionary and the statesman joining together to bring hope to this hurting nation.

Prior to the picture-perfect family portrait, Obama launched the rally by praising Biden's senatorial record and diplomatic skills. Then Obama, ever the visionary, shared his dream of the stronger, fairer, and more secure America that he and Biden would create.

Then, to the tune of Springsteen's "The Rising", Biden took the stage and proved his worthiness. Biden, ever the statesman, talked about how we need to change America, and in doing so can change the world. He criticized the Bush presidency and John McCain's complicity with Bush's policies. And he praised Obama's judgment, intelligence, courage, and strength.

It was a great pep rally and lead-in to the Democratic National Convention, which begins on Monday.

And I doubt that the Republicans, led by John McCain, can even begin to match the level of energy we saw yesterday in Springfield.

It gave me hope.

Cautious hope.

23 August 2008

Joe Biden: The yang to Obama's yin

On this Saturday morning I received my own 3:00 a.m. phone call, along with everyone else who had signed up for Barack Obama's text message that would officially announce his choice for VP: "Barack has chosen Senator Joe Biden to be our VP nominee..."

For die-hard Hillary Clinton supporters who had still hoped against the odds that Obama would choose her, it was like opening an old wound. Many have been busy in the blogosphere overnight, again threatening to shoot themselves (and the rest of us) in the foot by voting for McCain in protest. I hope they come to their senses between now and November. We cannot afford four more years with a Republican in the White House. And perhaps this can serve as a lesson: You can't launch the kinds of vicious attacks that Hillary threw at Barack during the primary season and then expect to be rewarded with the #2 job.

Yes, it would have been nice to have a woman on the ticket, but it would have had to be the right woman. And, with all the mud that the Republicans have already been slinging at Obama, he's better off with a running mate who carries a little less baggage.

Sure, Biden has had his gaffes and blunders, but so has everyone else in the world. On the positive side, Biden fills the biggest holes in Obama's resume: long-time experience in Washington along with expertise in foreign policy and national security.

Biden also has populist appeal, which could compensate for the right-wing accusations of Obama as "elitist". At least on paper, they appear to complement each other well. And the image of these two tall, strong, articulate men standing together to bring hope and change to Washington will be a formidable one for the McCain campaign to address, even if McCain were to select his own tall, strong, articulate running mate (for instance, Mitt Romney).

Furthermore, Biden isn't shy about fighting back against the competition. We all loved it last year when Biden described Rudy Giuliani's own short-lived presidential candidacy: "There's only three things he mentions in a sentence: a noun, and a verb, and 9/11."

And now he'll be taking on the McCain machine: A noun, and a verb, and POW? That's too easy. But he'll think of something.

I don't think there could have been a "perfect" choice for Obama's VP slot, but then there never is. All things considered, I think Biden is probably the most solid choice we had this year.

And hopefully this strong ticket will be strong enough to withstand the attacks of the right-wing smear machine.

If not, this mess that our country is in will only get even worse.

Now repeat after me, everybody: "Yes we can!"

22 August 2008

U.S. & Iraq agree on 2011 withdrawal

Today's Washington Post leads with a story that begins as follows:
U.S. and Iraqi negotiators have agreed to the withdrawal of all U.S. combat forces from the country by the end of 2011, and Iraqi officials said they are "very close" to resolving the remaining issues blocking a final accord that governs the future American military presence here.
How many more U.S. troops will die between now and 2011?

And how will John McCain react to this news? Will he claim that this is a sign of major progress and proof that our presence there has been a good thing?

Then the article gets even more interesting:
Iraqi and U.S. officials said several difficult issues remain, including whether U.S. troops will be subject to Iraqi law if accused of committing crimes.

Surely George W. Bush would never agree to any kind of accountability for criminal behavior on the part of our troops or contractors. After all, this is the same George W. Bush who "unsigned" the U.S. from our obligations under the International Criminal Court in the Hague.

But it is interesting to speculate about what would happen if U.S. troops were subject to Iraqi law if accused of committing crimes.

How would John McCain respond? (He of the fiery temper and the tough-guy rhetoric.)

And how would Barack Obama respond? (He of the reasoned diplomatic bent.)

I know who I'd want to have in charge.

21 August 2008

RIP Stephanie Tubbs Jones

I awoke this morning to the sad news that Rep. Stephanie Tubbs Jones died last evening from a brain hemorrhage caused by a burst aneurysm.

Rep. Tubbs Jones was someone I greatly admired.

She was the first black woman to be elected to Congress from Ohio and the first black woman to serve on the Ways and Means Committee.

She was a strong opponent of the Iraq war, a champion for ordinary Americans, and a true Progressive.

She was a powerful and inspirational public speaker.

She will be missed.

20 August 2008

California high court rules that doctors cannot deny treatment to gays on religious grounds

Kudos to the California Supreme Court, who decided unanimously on Monday that doctors may not discriminate against gays and lesbians in medical treatment, even if the procedures being sought conflict with physicians' religious beliefs.

According to the Los Angeles Times, the lawsuit stemmed from the case of a lesbian who wanted to become pregnant with donated sperm but ran into unwillingness on the part of doctors to participate in the procedure.

This reminds me of the old issue with pharmacists not wanting to fill prescriptions for birth control pills and other products that they feel are immoral. I like to point out that it is a pharmacist's job to fill the doctors' orders. If you can't do your job, then find another career path that might be more comfortable for you.

Same thing here with the docs. If you want to be a doctor, do what you've been trained to do. On the other hand, if you want to be some self-proclaimed "moral" activist, then trade in your white coat for a crucifix and rally against your med school classmates. It's your choice, but you can't have it both ways.

19 August 2008

I had a dream... (that Bush followed in Musharraf's footsteps)

Yesterday the media and the blogosphere were abuzz with the news that Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf announced his resignation. This was the culmination of some serious speculation since late last week. Now it's apparently official. Good.

Musharraf resigned under intense pressure and threats of impeachment.

And all this seems to have triggered a dream.

Last night I dreamt that George W. Bush succumbed to his own impeachability and lack of popularity and resigned with a speech similar to Musharraf's. Really. It was beautiful.

Unfortunately, I awoke before I could figure out if Dick Cheney also resigned. If not, he'd make a horrible interim president, to be sure. But at least it would just be very, very temporary -- and hopefully would open the eyes of enough undecided voters to influence them to vote for Obama over more of the same.

Alas, of course, it was merely a dream. It cannot possibly happen, because 1) the Dems don't have the guts to do the impeachment thing; and 2) Bush believes that he is entitled to do whatever he wants without consequence.

But a girl can dream.

18 August 2008

Suicide note from a Gitmo detainee

Mahvesh Khan is an American lawyer and author of the book My Guantanamo Diary: The Detainees and the Stories They Told Me.

In the video above, she reads a very moving suicide note from a Gitmo detainee who had become so distraught that he tried to kill himself.

The above video is an excerpt from a speech that Ms. Khan delivered to the Commonwealth Club of California in July.

>> Watch the complete video. It's very, very interesting.

17 August 2008

U.S. troops donate to Obama 6:1 over McCain

When our U.S. troops have donated money to a 2008 presidential candidate, who have they chosen to support?

War hero John McCain? Nope!

According to a study by the Center for Responsive Politics, "Democrat Barack Obama has received nearly six times as much money from troops deployed overseas at the time of their contributions than has Republican John McCain, and the fiercely anti-war Ron Paul, though he suspended his campaign for the Republican nomination months ago, has received more than four times McCain's haul."

That says so much.

16 August 2008

Justice Dept. wants to take away even more of your privacy

Bush's current level of warrantless wiretapping isn't good enough, apparently.

As the Washington Post tells us today, "The Justice Department has proposed a new domestic spying measure that would make it easier for state and local police to collect intelligence about Americans, share the sensitive data with federal agencies and retain it for at least 10 years."

The Post cites critics of the proposal as saying that it would "enshrine controversial post-Sept. 11 approaches that some say have fed the greatest expansion of executive authority since the Watergate era."

According to the Post article, Michael German, policy counsel for the ACLU, "said the proposed rule may be misunderstood as permitting police to collect intelligence even when no underlying crime is suspected, such as when a person gives money to a charity that independently gives money to a group later designated a terrorist organization."

Along with the usual right-to-privacy concerns, this is the sort of thing that worries me.

Imagine the outrage if Bill Clinton's administration had tried something like this.

15 August 2008

Right-wing news service associates Obama with Communist Party

It had to happen. The right-wing nuts are now associating Barack Obama with the Communist Party in order to alarm the sheep.

An article published yesterday on the right-wing news site OneNewsNow.com starts out with this provocative paragraph:
An anti-communist activist is not surprised that the Communist Party USA has written a glowing editorial about Barack Obama.
And it ends as follows:
The anti-communist activist says if the CPUSA is that happy with Obama, then clearly he is not someone who is willing to advance American interests anywhere -- and therefore should not be given the keys to the White House.
What?! Where is the logic there?

Especially when you consider that George W. Bush just returned from yet another trip to Communist China, where he and Chinese President Hu Jintao praised the "importance" and "constructiveness" of the U.S.-China relationship.

Double standard, anyone?

14 August 2008

Happy birthday, Social Security (and many more, unless McCain gets elected)

73 years ago today, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the Social Security Act into law.

Since then, Social Security has enabled numerous seniors and disabled Americans to pay their bills. It's not a lot of money, but it's the least we can do for our seniors and our disabled who surely deserve it.

However, for the past several years, the Republicans have been trying to undo much of the social progress that was made under FDR. As a part of that effort, they want to privatize Social Security. This would move our precious retirement/disability resources, which are currently guaranteed, into risky private investments.

That makes me nervous.

And now John McCain has jumped on the Social Security privatization bandwagon to appease the right-wing base.

Maybe the Republicans don't care about those of us who were not born with silver spoons in our mouths. But we outnumber them, so we must not let them win this one.

This is one more reason to do everything we can to ensure that we put some Democrats in the White House and many more Democrats in both houses of Congress this November.

13 August 2008

Open letter to Barack Obama from "The Nation" -- now collecting signatures

"The Nation" magazine has prepared a very good open letter to Barack Obama "urging him to stand firm on the principles he articulated in the primary."

They are now collecting signatures. The letter and signatures will be delivered to the Obama campaign prior to the Democratic National Convention.

Below is the text of the letter. You can sign on here.
Change We Can Believe In

Dear Senator Obama,

We write to congratulate you on the tremendous achievements of your campaign for the presidency of the United States.

Your candidacy has inspired a wave of political enthusiasm like nothing seen in this country for decades. In your speeches, you have sketched out a vision of a better future -- in which the United States sheds its warlike stance around the globe and focuses on diplomacy abroad and greater equality and freedom for its citizens at home -- that has thrilled voters across the political spectrum. Hundreds of thousands of young people have entered the political process for the first time, African-American voters have rallied behind you, and many of those alienated from politics-as-usual have been re-engaged.

You stand today at the head of a movement that believes deeply in the change you have claimed as the mantle of your campaign. The millions who attend your rallies, donate to your campaign and visit your website are a powerful testament to this new movement's energy and passion.

This movement is vital for two reasons: First, it will help assure your victory against John McCain in November. The long night of greed and military adventurism under the Bush Administration, which a McCain administration would continue, cannot be brought to an end a day too soon. An enthusiastic corps of volunteers and organizers will ensure that voters turn out to close the book on the Bush era on election day. Second, having helped bring you the White House, the support of this movement will make possible the changes that have been the platform of your campaign. Only a grassroots base as broad and as energized as the one that is behind you can counteract the forces of money and established power that are a dead weight on those seeking real change in American politics.

We urge you, then, to listen to the voices of the people who can lift you to the presidency and beyond.

Since your historic victory in the primary, there have been troubling signs that you are moving away from the core commitments shared by many who have supported your campaign, toward a more cautious and centrist stance -- including, most notably, your vote for the FISA legislation granting telecom companies immunity from prosecution for illegal wiretapping, which angered and dismayed so many of your supporters.

We recognize that compromise is necessary in any democracy. We understand that the pressures brought to bear on those seeking the highest office are intense. But retreating from the stands that have been the signature of your campaign will weaken the movement whose vigorous backing you need in order to win and then deliver the change you have promised.

Here are key positions you have embraced that we believe are essential to sustaining this movement:

§ Withdrawal from Iraq on a fixed timetable.

§ A response to the current economic crisis that reduces the gap between the rich and the rest of us through a more progressive financial and welfare system; public investment to create jobs and repair the country's collapsing infrastructure; fair trade policies; restoration of the freedom to organize unions; and meaningful government enforcement of labor laws and regulation of industry.

§ Universal healthcare.

§ An environmental policy that transforms the economy by shifting billions of dollars from the consumption of fossil fuels to alternative energy sources, creating millions of green jobs.

§ An end to the regime of torture, abuse of civil liberties and unchecked executive power that has flourished in the Bush era.

§ A commitment to the rights of women, including the right to choose abortion and improved access to abortion and reproductive health services.

§ A commitment to improving conditions in urban communities and ending racial inequality, including disparities in education through reform of the No Child Left Behind Act and other measures.

§ An immigration system that treats humanely those attempting to enter the country and provides a path to citizenship for those already here.

§ Reform of the drug laws that incarcerate hundreds of thousands who need help, not jail.

§ Reform of the political process that reduces the influence of money and corporate lobbyists and amplifies the voices of ordinary people.

These are the changes we can believe in. In other areas -- such as the use of residual forces and mercenary troops in Iraq, the escalation of the US military presence in Afghanistan, the resolution of the Israel-Palestine conflict, and the death penalty -- your stated positions have consistently varied from the positions held by many of us, the "friends on the left" you addressed in recent remarks. If you win in November, we will work to support your stands when we agree with you and to challenge them when we don't. We look forward to an ongoing and constructive dialogue with you when you are elected President.

Stand firm on the principles you have so compellingly articulated, and you may succeed in bringing this country the change you've encouraged us to believe is possible.
This letter speaks to me. Does it speak to you, too? If so, sign the letter.

I did.

12 August 2008

An end to the fighting in Georgia?

MSNBC is reporting this morning that "Russian President Dmitri Medvedev ordered an end to the military operation in Georgia on Tuesday."

I hope this is true. After all, innocent civilians are suffering, and there is never a good excuse for that, in my opinion.

And I wonder if there will ever come a day when humankind has evolved to where we no longer feel a need to resort to violence to resolve our differences. (Call me naive, but I prefer to think of myself as an idealist.)

Meantime, for some interesting background on the conflict from a humanitarian perspective, check out this Q & A from Human Rights Watch.

11 August 2008

Bush praises U.S.-China relationship, ignores the ugly truth

George W. Bush has been in China over the past few days for the start of the 2008 Summer Olympics. Yesterday he met with President Hu Jintao of the so-called People's Republic of China.

The two presidents praised the "importance" and "constructiveness" of the U.S.-China relationship. Sure. It's a win-win situation for them, although not for the people they rule -- er -- govern.

After all, U.S. business can fire their relatively highly paid American workers and replace them with cheap Chinese labor -- not only manufacturing workers but high-tech specialists as well. Meanwhile, China's economic status has grown by leaps and bounds as a result.

And, as the two presidents bask in the spotlight and the corporate CEOs are rewarded with obscene salaries, Chinese women and children toil in sweatshops to produce your cheap Walmart goods, while more and more Americans lose their jobs. Where are the media for those photo ops?

While it's win-win for the ruling class, it's lose-lose for the rest of us.

10 August 2008

Politicians' affairs, double standards, and glass houses everywhere

I have been a John Edwards fan ever since he wowed me with his "Two Americas" speech during his 2004 vice presidential bid. I never thought I'd find myself feeling thankful that John Edwards didn't win the Democratic nomination for this year's presidential election. But today I do, and not for the reasons you might think.

You see, while I was disappointed to hear the news of Edwards' affair with Rielle Hunter, I do not feel that it is my place to judge him. I am not a perfect person, and so I cannot expect our national figures to be perfect persons either.

Besides that, I believe that one's sex life is no one else's business. Just as I believed 10 years ago that Bill Clinton's sex life should have remained a private matter between him, Hillary, and Chelsea, I believe that John Edwards' affair is the family's business and not one for public scrutiny or judgment.

What a politician does sexually in private does not necessarily affect his (or her) ability to lead this country effectively. While Bill Clinton was fooling around with Monica Lewinsky, this nation enjoyed eight years of peaceful prosperity, culminating in the largest budget surplus in history. And, while I didn't agree with all of Bill Clinton's presidential policies, I don't think we can blame Monica for NAFTA or welfare "reform".

But the "news" reporters, the pundits, and the public all like a good sex scandal, so they jumped on the Edwards story like hungry wolves. This one has all the ingredients to sell lots of newspapers: a handsome politician, a cancer-stricken wife, two small kids at home, and an attractive, younger, blonde "other woman".

Plenty to judge. Schadenfreude heaven. Cha-ching.

So then why do the media remain relatively silent about John McCain's infidelities? If they are so interested in politicians' marital infidelities, why do we not hear about the fact that McCain's wife, Cindy, was his mistress while McCain was still married to his first wife? And why did the Vicki Iseman scandal have such a short shelf life?

My guess is that it's because the media today are owned by just a very few rich guys who have their political and financial reasons to serve the Republican party that gave them their current level of power and wealth through ever-growing media consolidation and deregulation.

And this is why I am thankful that John Edwards did not win the nomination this year. If he had, we'd hear about more about Rielle Hunter than we'd hear about the real issues that this country faces. And the media would make us think that it matters enough to affect the election.

And that is silly and it is sad in what is says about our priorities.

On a final note, I offer the "glass house" argument. According to Peggy Vaughan, author of the book The Monogamy Myth,"60 percent of men and 40 percent of women will have an affair at some point in their marriage." That's half of us. If it's not you, it's the person standing next to you. So it's not exactly a rare novelty. And those who point fingers might want to peer deep into their own souls. And they might want to ask themselves if they really have room to judge others.

09 August 2008

Why they want to kill Americans

I was greatly sadded by the news that two Americans, a husband and wife, were stabbed in Beijing. The husband died as a result. My heart goes out to their family.

And I found myself asking why, when people from all over this planet are in Beijing for the Olympic games, why were two Americans the first crime victims that we've heard about?

While officials are saying that the attack was not provoked by the fact that the victim were Americans, I couldn't help but suspect it anyway. After all, it's no secret that much of the world hates us and much of the world wants Americans dead.

It's a far cry from the days following the 9/11 attacks, when the world was with us. The Bush administration has squandered that precious international unity and replaced it with its tough-talking cowboy-style approach to foreign policy.

We went from brother to bully to torturer.

And, as long as we continue down that path, Americans will not be safe anywhere in the world.

08 August 2008

Hamdan case exemplifies Bush's failure in the "war on terror"

On August 6th, Osama bin Laden's former driver, Salim Hamdan, was convicted of aiding terrorism but acquitted of more serious conspiracy charges.

The next day, the jury sentenced Hamdan to 5 1/2 years in prison -- much less than the 30 years to life that the prosecution wanted. The sentence includes the five years and one month that Hamdan has already served at Gitmo, so he may be free in as little as five months.

This is the Bush administration's big news-making catch, their showcase trial in the "war on terror". And it is pathetic.

The trial was a fiasco, a kangaroo court, in clear violation of international human rights standards. But, of course, the Bushies seem to believe that they are above the law, or they make it up as they go along.

Pursuant to the provisions of the unfortunate Military Commissions Act of 2006, the prosecution used secret evidence, much of which wasn't provided to the defense until hours before the trial, if at all. That "evidence" included information obtained by coercion, which experts agree is usually unreliable. (John McCain himself once exemplified this by recalling how, when asked under torture in Vietnam to provide his captors with the names of the members of his flight squadron, instead rattled off the names of the Green Bay Packers' offensive line, "knowing that providing them false information was sufficient to suspend the abuse.")

But those practical concerns don't seem to matter. We must obtain convictions at any cost, because it looks good. It's all politics.

Fortunately, the jury recognized that Hamdan is not the "worst of the worst", as the Bushies like to call our Gitmo detainees. He was a two-bit player, a poor shmuck who chose the wrong car to drive for a living. And for that he has suffered five years of abuse and interrogation.

Ironically, for all of Bush's tough talk in the "war on terror", this is what he's got to show for it.

Meanwhile, bin Laden remains free and the terrorist threat remains stronger than ever.

God bless America.
"I don't know where [Osama bin Laden] is. You know, I just don't spend that much time on him."

   -- George W. Bush, in a press conference, Washington, DC, March 13, 2002

06 August 2008

Paris Hilton responds to McCain campaign ad

You may have seen or heard about the recent McCain campaign ad that compares Barack Obama to Paris Hilton and Britney Spears, obviously trying to paint Obama as a pretty-boy celebrity with no real substance.

So now Paris Hilton has responded with her own campaign ad. And it's actually pretty good!

The only problem with Paris's proposed economic policy (and McCain's) is that offshore drilling will not necessarily carry us until new alternative energy technologies kick in. We cannot afford to wait that long. The fact is that more offshore drilling would not produce any results for at least a decade. By then we could have made a lot of progress in alternative, renewable energy technology.

We just need to explain that to Paris Hilton, to John McCain, and to the 51% of Americans who believe that offshore drilling would reduce gas prices in the next year.

That said, it is interesting to note that Paris Hilton's ad makes more sense than John McCain's.

05 August 2008

Judge on attempted citizens' arrest of Karl Rove: "It's about time."

Four Iowa residents recently attempted to make a citizens' arrest of Karl Rove at the Wakonda Country Club in Des Moines, where Rove was scheduled to speak. These four individuals ranged in age from 25 to 80, and they included a retired Methodist minister and three Catholic workers.

As it turned out, the four were themselves arrested on trespassing charges.

When the first defendant, 57-year-old Mona Shaw (no relation), was called before Polk County Fifth Judicial District Associate Judge William Price, the judge asked her, "Ma'am, what were you doing at the Wakonda Country Club?"

She responded, "I was attempting to make a citizen's arrest of Karl Rove, your honor."

To that, Judge Price responded, "Well, it's about time."

Kudos to Judge Price. We need more like him.

Meanwhile, our four defendants are awaiting a jury trial which is scheduled for August 20.

>> Read more, and see pics and videos of the arrest.

04 August 2008

Major retailers closing lots of stores

Unless you're among the wealthiest people in the U.S., you're probably feeling the squeeze of our current economic crisis.

Our stagnant and deteriorating wages cannot handle the rising cost of fuel, food, and everything else. The housing industry is a nightmare. And the middle class is hurting bad.

And some recent statistics on the retail industry drive another nail into the coffin of our dead American dream. William F. Engdahl, in an article for Global Research, spells out the awful truth about the sad state of our retail industry:
Ann Taylor closing 117 stores nationwide.

Eddie Bauer to close more stores after closing 27 stores in the first quarter.

Cache, a women’s retailer[,] is closing 20 to 23 stores this year.

Lane Bryant, Fashion Bug, Catherines closing 150 stores nationwide

Talbots, J. Jill closing stores. Talbots will close all 78 of its kids and men's stores plus another 22 underperforming stores. The 22 stores will be a mix of Talbots women's and J. Jill.

Gap Inc. closing 85 stores

Foot Locker to close 140 stores

Wickes Furniture is going out of business and closing all of its stores. The 37-year-old retailer that targets middle-income customers, filed for bankruptcy protection last month.

Levitz - the furniture retailer, announced it was going out of business and closing all 76 of its stores in December. The retailer dates back to 1910.

Zales, Piercing Pagoda plans to close 82 stores by July 31 followed by closing another 23 underperforming stores.

Disney Store owner has the right to close 98 stores.

Home Depot store closings 15 of them amid a slumping US economy and housing market. The move will affect 1,300 employees. It is the first time the world's largest home improvement store chain has ever closed a flagship store.

CompUSA (CLOSED [most of its stores]).

Macy's - 9 stores closed

Movie Gallery – video rental company plans to close 400 of 3,500 Movie Gallery and Hollywood Video stores in addition to the 520 locations the video rental chain closed last fall as part of bankruptcy.

Pacific Sunwear - 153 Demo stores closing

Pep Boys - 33 stores of auto parts supplier closing

Sprint Nextel - 125 retail locations to close with 4,000 employees following 5,000 layoffs last year.

J. C. Penney, Lowe's and Office Depot are all scaling back

Ethan Allen Interiors: plans to close 12 of 300 stores to cut costs.

Wilsons the Leather Experts – closing 158 stores

Bombay Company: to close all 384 U.S.-based Bombay Company stores.

KB Toys closing 356 stores around the United States as part of its bankruptcy reorganization.

Dillard's Inc. will close another six stores this year.
This is despite George W. Bush's insistence that the economy isn't so bad. In fact, Bush pulled his head out of the sand long enough to tell us the following in his weekly radio address back on July 19:
Despite the challenges we have faced, our economy has demonstrated remarkable resilience. Exports have continued to grow, productivity growth has remained strong, and while economic growth in the first quarter of this year was slower than we would have liked, it was growth, nonetheless.

Tell that to all the retail employees who are losing their jobs with these store closings.

The only thing growing in this economy are the bank accounts of the richest one or two percent and the gap between the rich and the rest of us.

03 August 2008

What it feels like to be a prison guard at Gitmo

Fortunately, some Gitmo guards have a heart. (But, of course, that does not mean that Gitmo is OK.)

In at article posted at Cageprisoners.com, originally published in Esquire, Christopher Arendt tells us what it felt like to be a prison guard at Gitmo.

The experience drove him to a suicide attempt.

Read the article: What It Feels Like... To Be a Prison Guard at Guantanamo Bay

01 August 2008

Feds can confiscate your laptop at the border without due cause

Do you travel out of the country with your laptop computer? If so, better back up your files before you return.

As a Washington Post article tells us today, the feds have decided that they "may take a traveler's laptop or other electronic device to an off-site location for an unspecified period of time without any suspicion of wrongdoing, as part of border search policies the Department of Homeland Security recently disclosed."

Yes, you read that right: They can do this without any suspicion of wrongdoing.

In at least one case, a device was confiscated and held for months.

Are we living in a police state?